Category Archives: Coaching

USMS destroying open water swimming

The U.S. Masters Swimming organization is now meeting in Dallas for their convention. One of the proposed amendments (link pdf…go to page 179) to the USMS rule book was contrary to the tradition of open water swimming:

303.3.2 Swimmers may receive the following assistance from any escort craft:
A. Food or drink may be passed from escort craft to swimmer as long as deliberate contact is not made between the two.

303.3.3 Swimmers shall not receive the following assistance from any escort craft:
A. Swimmers shall not receive flotation or propulsion forward progress from any escort craft nor make intentional contact with any craft.

Those strike-outs are significant. What that means now is that swimmers can rest by holding onto a support craft (boat, kayak, SUP) during USMS-sanctioned open water events. The rationale behind these two rules’ amendments is to align them to rule 303.9.5, which has been amended in Dallas to:

A disqualification can be made only by the referee, the starter or a judge within whose jurisdiction the
infraction has been committed. Swimmers shall be disqualified if they: …
303.9.5 Receive assistance Make forward progress by pulling, pushing, or resting, or maintaining contact on physical features and/or craft on or near the course, other than the bottom near the start and finish and at specified locations. Incidental contact shall not be a basis for disqualification.

The rationale of this proposal, according to documents and a couple people present at the convention, is that it “removes resting on a stationary object as a disqualifying offense, for swimmer safety.”

There it is. “…for swimmer safety…” Because we’re all children.

Apparently, swimmers who have never swum more than 3k in training sign up for 5k and 10k swims en masse, thus they need to be protected. (In my experience, no one signs up for half or marathon swims who have never swum even half of that in open water already. Those distances are just too far for most, without training.) Because sure, resting in the middle of an hour or more-long swim event isn’t an aid to the swimmer.

The spirit of open water swimming is that the swimmer completes the distance solely under his/her own power. In fact, it is kind of a bragging point for most of us. “Yes, I swam 10k from location X to location Y. No, I didn’t get in the boat to rest. No, I didn’t hang on the side of the kayak when I got tired. I swam the entire distance without touching the bottom or holding on to anything. Yeah, I’m bad-ass.” You know, kind of like when pool swimmers complete a 500m swim. They swim 5 or 10 laps solely under their own power. Not stopping to rest on the lane lines.

In fact, the first 5k event I swam was kind of a big deal…to me. I had swum that far in a pool, but after swimming that in open water, water with currents and salt, with other competitors running into you, salt rash under the arms, well, you kinda feel invincible. I remember returning to the airport the next day, seeing a sign on the highway announcing that the next town was 5 kilometers away, thinking to myself “My God, I swam this distance yesterday.” Sure, the taxi only took 5 minutes and I took significantly longer than that. But seeing the road pass by, the hills and ground, trees and signs pass by, it cemented in my brain that I did something significant. This rule demeans all of that.

In the UK during my first 10k, they had two “comfort stations,” one at 4k and the other at 8k. They touted tea and biscuits. I thought that would be great, as I knew the water would be cold. When I got to the 4k comfort station (really just a big raft), I noticed it was surrounded by swimmers hanging off the sides, like barnacles. I thought to myself, Why would I waste minutes I could be swimming waiting for a small cup of hot tea? I can just put my head down and get done with the remaining 6k and have all the tea I want, reveling in the feeling of being done with swimming 10 whole kilometers on my own power.

No sprinter in his right mind would sign up for a 1500m pool event if he wasn’t ready to swim the entire distance. No swimmer should sign up for a 5k swim, which takes us mere mortals at least an hour and a half (closer to two hours for me), if he isn’t ready to swim for a couple hours. He should know going in that he can’t stop and rest halfway through the swim.

One delegate, a marathon swimmer, voted yes on this proposal. Her reasoning? New swimmers who enter open water events may be nervous or anxious in open water. If that person gets kicked in the face, s/he can rest on the boat to recover. Therefore, for the swimmer who has never swum in open water, s/he can now rest while the other swimmers actually swim the entire event.

Why’s that matter? Well, if you’ve ever been in open water, swimming like the wind trying your hardest to pass the swimmer in front of you (regardless of whether or not s/he is in your age group), you know that swimming in open water takes training and practice. You work your heart out to swim fast and straight. You want to complete the distance solely under your power wearing a cap, goggles and suit.

But what if one or more of the swimmers in your age group swims his or her hardest and is 100s of meters ahead of you? Why, that person can simply rest for a bit hanging on to the side of a boat. Catch his breath. Take a few minutes breather. Then start fresh. Or at least, fresher than you, who have been swimming at your race pace since starting the event.

Why not just let him wear fins? Or use a pull buoy? This is similar to giving one basketball team more time to bring the ball past half-court than the other. You know, because one team is new to basketball, and might need 60 seconds (instead of 10) to bring the ball from their end of the court to their opponent’s.

I’m reminded of an incident several years ago (2013?) where a woman got sponsors to help her pay for her English Channel swim. She planned to swim the channel for charity and did actually start. However, a few miles in she got on the boat, put on a wetsuit and fins, and “finished” the swim. In publications she touted herself as an English Channel swimmer. Um, no. You’re not. You cheated.

To their credit, one delegate proposed that the rule include a rider that a race director can state in the race rules that touching a support craft is disqualifying. That passed, thank God. Still, that is up to race directors to include in their event’s rules. And in my experience, I think many USMS events in the future will allow holding on to a boat to rest. And this is too bad, as the USMS hosts several championships every year, in distances ranging from one mile to ten. My guess is those events now will allow people to rest on boats mid-swim. Those events won’t get my money.

Great weekend of swimming

Managed three days at the lake over this wonderful 3-day weekend, 9.12 kilometers. Even better was that I had company each day! Open water is definitely more fun with others.

On Saturday and Sunday I took my friend Jen back to the lake. She’s a glutton for punishment, having done three days of “boot camp” (basically CrossFit horror), which made her sore all over, and a day of pool swimming, then two days of lake swimming with me. Saturday was way colder than last week, with the water probably in the 16-17C range. But the sun was out which was nice. As usual, within a minute or so of swimming we didn’t feel the cold.

That’s our Saturday. We hung by the coast there in the south, so much so that we ran (swam?) aground at one point. I knew we were in trouble when I looked to the right and saw a fisherman about 5 meters from us standing in the water…water up to his knees. Looking at us like we just ruined his fishing. So of course I said good morning and we went on our way. By the time we headed back, he was no longer at that spot. Done or moved? No idea.

There were tons of folks out that day as it was so pretty out. As you can see above, the air temp was 21C, which is warm enough even for Russians to be out in bathing suits and bikinis sun-bathing. Even saw two people (!) in normal skimpy suits swimming! Say it isn’t so! My daughter came with so she could get a long run in, and Jen and I remembered to get a pic by the water.

Sunday the weather was crap. At least in the morning. Cloudy, windy and kind of cold, about 12-13C air temp. We both were regretting our decision to go swimming. As usual we walked in our suits from parking to the lake, getting looks along the way. And it was quite breezy. We brought sweatshirts for after.

Toe-dip thermometer, however, reported an increase in water temp since Saturday. It actually felt like it was 19-20C. Very inviting. In fact, by the time we were done, we didn’t want to get out as it was way warmer in the water than out! Anyway, Jen wanted to do at least an 1:15, so we went a little farther than Saturday. As we were turning for home, we didn’t go straight in. There were some fishermen whose lines we wanted to avoid, plus we thought we’d have to swim past our entry point to get to the full time. Turned out we’re either slow enough or misjudged our speed because as we got close to the start, we had had enough time so took a sharp turn left and swam in, as you can see below.

Sunday we spent less time gabbing and stopping for boat-watch, so our “moving time” average was 2:00 per 100 meters, which I’m very happy with for an OW practice session. I’m also getting a bit better at sighting as the summer progresses, which might help at the end of the month when we swim in Sochi.

The weather got better later in the day. But during the swim, it was cloudy and overcast. Very few people at the lake and no one without a thick jacket (Russians get cold when the air temp falls to 60F). We did manage to get a pic of ourselves in front of the “Swimming forbidden” sign.

Labor day! Jen had other plans, but Sabrina, our teammate for the upcoming 3 x 1000 in Sochi, wanted to go to the lake, so I had another partner! She is a triathlete, so I honestly figured she’d swim with a wetsuit. I was happy to see she didn’t bring one! Actually, turns out she doesn’t even have one, so that’s a good sign.

We did the same route as Jen and I on Saturday, basically. The water was a bit colder than Sunday but not that bad, maybe 18C. And the sun kept peeking out from behind the clouds, which was nice. We even had some of those MChS (Russian coast guard) boats go by, but they didn’t even care about us. Most likely that’s because I listened to them a month or so ago when they said to not swim through the middle of the lake!

Sabrina’s shoulder was giving her pains, so once we got back to the sunken houseboat, we bee-lined it straight back to the shore. On our way coming in, I stopped to let her catch up and I saw a passel of grandmas and grandpas (babushki and dedushki) with their little charges up on the shore staring at the strange people in the water. I yelled to them “good morning” and waved, and they all waved back, the kids laughing. Very sweet and very Russian. My daughter went running again today and got a picture of us swimming in. (And that’s it on pics, as I forgot again to get one of us by the lake.)

So it was a great swim-weekend. Great swim week as a matter of fact, since I swam Tuesday and Thursday as well. Not a lot distance-wise (13.8-ish km) but good in-the-water time. And since the 26th of August, 24.2km. I’ll take that!

Open Water Skills

I recently read a great blog entry from a relatively new open water swimmer. Her enthusiasm for her new sport reminded me of the first year I dipped a toe in the crazy pool. She just completed her first two-mile OW swim in cold water and, despite some reservations and nerves at the beginning, ended up feeling like this:


That was SO AWESOME!

Reading her blog entry also brought back memories from my coaching days with DC Tri. I really enjoyed coaching those whack-a-doodles. They are really great folks with a passion and lots of time on their hands (three sports, after all). But mostly, I enjoyed teaching them some OW skills. I’d get looks when I explained to them what I wanted them to do. But it never failed that weeks later, one or more of them would approach me and tell me they’d had to use one of the skills in an actual race.

Let’s face it, there is little worse in an OW swim than having to stop to adjust or fix something. How many times have beginning OW swimmers had to stop to get water out of a google eye cup? Or to rub a gunked up eyeball? Or to cough up the water they just swallowed when turning to breathe? Or got pushed away from a buoy by another swimmer?

All of these issues fall under “Skills Training” in Steve Munatones’ 7 Essential Open Water Skills. I am a big fan of his pyramid:

Pyramid of OW Swim Success
Pyramid of OW Swim Success

I think if you’ve got the first level covered, you can pretty much be assured that you’ll complete any OW swim (within reason) you attempt. The second level covers areas to work on during your training on the first level. For instance, you can certainly work on speed while you’re swimming in a lake or river. Equally, you can work on your distance tolerance while swimming multiple one kilometer laps in the harbor. Or work on skills during one of your pool workouts.

Skills training you can also work on in OW, but for some skills, a pool is useful for the ability to repeat the skill during a length. Some of the skills I used to put my triathletes through include:

  • No breath: Turn to breathe every right (or left). Except, only breathe every 4th stroke. Reason? To be able to turn to breathe, but see a wave coming, so you hold that breath. It takes some doing, because your body will want to breathe. But your lungs have plenty of air in them to wait two more strokes.
  • Flip to back: Many of my triathletes actually were pretty fast, and had legitimate concerns about where they were in the pack and where their competition was. So instead of stopping to look around, I’d have them flip over to backstroke, increase their kick to 6-beat, look slightly up and through their toes, then flip back to freestyle. Aim was to do that in only 3 strokes. Increase in kick was to help prevent their hips from sinking when they lifted (ever so slightly) their heads to find the competition.
  • Flip to back 2: In this version, I’d have them flip to backstroke not to look at their competition, but to fix a goggle. In #2, I asked them to flip to their back, do one arm for 2 or 3 strokes, then flip back to freestyle.
  • Flip to back 3: Just like #2, but #3 required them to clear a goggle cup (one of the eyes, basically) of water with their non-swimming arm. I’d of course make them do this with each arm so they feel comfortable clearing either goggle cup. This is the exercise on which I’d get the most post-race feedback.
  • Coughing. Sometimes you don’t hold your breath when you see that wave coming. But don’t let some water in your throat cause you to go vertical to cough it up. With a little practice, you can learn to cough underwater. While swimming, simply cough underwater. Just don’t breathe back in.
  • Drafting. I didn’t believe there was such a thing until one night at practice it was just two of us. The other guy was slightly faster, and in the lane next to me. I swam right next to the lane line alongside him, and all of a sudden I felt a palpable easing in my effort, and felt like I was swimming way faster than I really was. From that moment on, I believed in drafting. I’d make my triathletes go three abreast, the middle guy swimming a 60% effort, until the 25 meter mark (this was a LCM pool) then speed up to 80%. The other two I’d make swim so their head was between the middle’s shoulder and hip. Many of my triathletes would tell me that they immediately felt the draft. I’d also make them draft head to toe, switching lead every length.
  • Jackass. Sometimes you’ve got another swimmer who doesn’t swim straight or is just a jackass trying to box you out of the turn buoy. For that, you need to do the roll over. For this exercise, two swimmers swim abreast, one in the center of the lane, the other to the right or left. The one on the side would roll over to backstroke, only he’d roll over the back of the middle swimmer. This is handy if the guy is bumping you on purpose and swimming so to push you away from the buoy. I haven’t heard of this much in OW swimming, but triathletes have told me this happens in the swim leg often. Only issue is if a referee or official sees you pull this move you might get penalized. Also, it could really piss off the other guy, so be prepared for payback.

The point of all these drills was to continue forward progress and not have to stop and go vertical, which does a whollop on your head with all the blood all of a sudden flowing differently than when you were horizontal.

There are plenty of other Skill Training drills out there, but those were my favorites. Give some/all of them a try at one of your next workouts!

Swim meet with Triathletes

Dear reader(s) know that I have a bit of a laugh occasionally at triathletes’ expense. What with swimming with pull buoys during 2-mile open water swims, or standing up and walking in the shallows. But today I got to experience triathletes at their sportsmen’s best. And that made me very proud to be a coach.

Today was DC Tri Club’s Swim Meet #3, postponed back in November due to water temperature. (haha)  The meet was held at Catholic University indoor pool, a cool little six-lane SCY pool, with a movable wall that separates the diving well (not big enough to make a 50m pool, sadly). Since today was Sunday, the parking lot and the street parking was free and available. The drive there went through DC, parts I hadn’t driven yet, and through the beautiful CUA campus. Oh, to have rich parents.

About 30 DC Tri club members and coaches signed up for the 10 events (not counting the relays):

  1. 400 free
  2. 50  back
  3. 100  free
  4. 50  breast
  5. 100  IM
  6. 800  free 
  7. 50 free
  8. 100 back
  9. 50 fly
  10. 200 free

The meet only cost $12 and you could swim up to 4 events. So of course, the cheap bastard I am, I signed up for 4 events. Yep, you guessed it, I signed up for the 800, 400 and 200. And, bonus event: 50 fly. But, recall that there were only 30 swimmers total, so the time between my 50 fly heat and my 200 free heat was the time of one heat of 200 free. OMG, I was tired. Then, upon completing the 200 free (heat 2 of 2), my fellow coaches came up to me and said, “Guess what Mike? We need you for the coach vs. board relay.” Crap.

OK, so times. My first event was the 400 free. Wow did I hurt. My arms felt like they did when I first started this LCHF diet. D-E-D, dead. My goal for the 400 for 6:00. I managed to beat that at 5:46. So far so good. Thankfully I had much time to rest between the 400 and the 800. There were 2-3 heats of each event, so I had a good 15-20 minutes before the 800.

For the 800, I decided (well, had decided a couple weeks ago) to treat it like a 4×200. I thought I’d go out fast in the first 200, medium in the 2nd, start to build the 3rd, then all out during the 4th 200. Well, I certainly went out fast. Or at least felt fast. Then I kept fast in the 2nd 200. And I felt good. The 400 didn’t feel as bad as the 400 I had swum first. I really wish I’d been able to check the time at my 400. It started to hurt after that. In fact, when I had 200 left, I couldn’t push it yet. I was leading my heat, so that was okay. But when I had 100 left, I pushed it. Really, it was the last 75 that really flew by. 12:12.  Way faster than the 15:00 I was aiming for. Very happy.

Next was my 50 fly. The fly was delightfully easy, thank God. Just one lap felt so nice after all the previous laps.  0:39-something. The only problem was the 200 free right after. That didn’t feel so good. I figured I’d swim something like 3:05 or so. Nope! 2:44. So happy. And happy to be done. Except for the relay.

OK, so the relay. There were only 3 board members there. So that meant the relay would be a 150 free relay. Yeah, weird. Even the timers started looking around for the 4th swimmer. Anyway, we coaches destroyed the board members, w00t! 1:27 for our 150 free. Way to go team members, Jules and Bryan.

Crap week

Dear reader(s) you may have noticed that I’ve been quiet lately. Well, the last week was absolute crap, and it really affected my swimming mood. Like, as in, no swimming for the past week.

It all started last Tuesday, the 25th. I got up early and went to the weirdly-shaped base pool to put in my 4410 meters. Tuesday at the Bolling pool is CrossFit day. I’d done that once last year and it was fun, and easy. This time, I got to the pool and changed at around 0625. (That’s fancy military time for 6:25 a.m.) The entire lap end of the pool, all 8 lanes, were filled with CrossFitters. Each lane had two CFers in it except for one. I nodded to the CrossFit coach and entered into the available lane. The CrossFitter was coming back on the left, so I went off on the right and started my laps.

After the flip-turn, I noticed he was coming back on my side, in other words, he was circle-swimming. I stopped and stood up, hoping he’d see me, so we could discuss how we’re going to do this. I, of course, was going to suggest sides, seeing how there’s just two of us. He got closer and closer, head down the whole time, so I had to put my hands up to stop him. Before I could say anything, he looked up, yelled at the top of his lungs “CIRCLE SWIM RIGHT!” and put his head down and kept going. I continued to finish my lap. When I got to the end I asked his coach if she’d ask him to just stay on his side so we don’t have to worry about passing.

Another lap and it’s the same thing. This time when he got out to do his sit-ups, I recommended to him that we keep to our sides. He obviously has trouble modulating his voice, because again he screamed “CIRCLE SWIM, RIGHT! JEEZ, DON’T YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SWIMMING ETIQUETTE?” Oh, yes, dear reader(s), he went there. I told him that’s why everyone thinks CFers are a$$holes and I continued swimming. Another lap and the same, but this time I asked the lifeguard to help. Meanwhile, another CrossFitter decided to come help his pal, and he yelled at me, telling me to switch to another lane two away that only had one swimmer in it. I ignored him as it was between me and my circle-swimming buddy. Besides, why the hell should I get out when I got in The Only Freaking Open Lane!

My first four laps took immeasurably long. The coach, btw, just put her hands up every time I asked for her help as if to tell me I was on my own and/or her athletes were not her responsibility. Way to go, coach! After my four laps the jerk got out, as he must have finished his work out. I saw him, his pal, and the “coach” all talking to the lifeguard. (Flash-forward 66 laps later, as I was leaving the lane I passed the lifeguard they talked to and she didn’t say anything to me!) I also spoke to another lap swimmer that showed up about 10 minutes after the CFers were done. I quizzed him on circle or sides for 2/lane, and, you guessed it, he said sides. He also mentioned that he doesn’t show up to do laps on Tuesdays until 0700 so as to avoid those you-know-whats.

And if you’ve gotten this far and you’re wondering why I was pushing so much for sides? If only two swimmers are in a lane, they can be vastly different speeds and if they swim circles, one will always be passing the other, which disturbs the workout for both swimmers. Sides is best. Additionally, these CrossFitters time themselves for their entire workout, so when the gonk was done with his push-ups or sit-ups, he’d probably just jump into the lane no matter where I was. I saw my future and it included him landing on me right after I pushed off the wall.

I wrote the head of the CrossFit club and he wrote me back a nice note. He instructs all his guys to circle swim, but recognized that perhaps they should leave at least one lane open for non-CrossFitters!

But that’s not all, dear reader(s)! No, the week got worse. I subbed in for another coach on Wednesday of last week. Again, fun as hell. I really feel like I’m helping some of these guys, while learning at the same time. I had a great night. The next morning, I got in the van to go to work, and I noticed that all the change between the two cup holders was gone. Idiot kids! We have a can of quarters, dimes, etc by the front door! They could have just grabbed change there. I coached again Friday night, but didn’t swim. I didn’t swim any more mornings that week. I was still a little pissed about Tuesday morning. I figured I’ll do a great OW swim Saturday morning at Mason Neck.

Friday night after coaching I thought I’d go through my swim bag, which I left in the car in case I decided to go swim on base before or after work. The bag was gone. “Maybe I took it in?” Nope, not in the house. Then it hit me.

The stupid battery in my key fob has been draining low. A couple times I realized I didn’t hear the tell-tale “beep-beep” of the van locking. Uh-oh. I thought back to Thursday morning and the missing change. I asked the kids if they took any coins out of the van. Nope. I thought back to Wednesday night coaching, at an aquatic center that had to hire a security guard to sit in the locker rooms because some kids went through a couple months ago and cut all the locks. Uh-oh. I bet someone saw an opportunity, thought maybe the bag would have an iPhone or something, grabbed the bag and the coins (maybe four bucks) and ran.

So, now I have no goggles, no caps (OSS Dart 10K swim cap gone! Swim the Suck cap GONE!), no Finis Tempo Trainer, no pull buoy, no paddles, no zoomers, no suits. Dammit! Thank God I didn’t have my Garmin 310xt in that bag!

Well, there you have it. This is why I’ve been quiet. I’m still a little pissed. And now I’ve broken my key fob trying to pull the old battery out. Jeez Louise.

Coaches clinic complete

Yesterday I spent the day at Sport & Fitness in McLean, VA, for the USMS/ASCA Levels 1 & 2 Coach Certification class.  Bill Brenner, USMS Coaches Chair, Mel Goldstein, Head Coach of Indy Aquatic Masters, past president of USMS and frequent contributor to USMS Swimmer, and Frank Marcinkowski, head coach of Fairfax masters, a 800+ member club, were the instructors for the course.

A good time was had by all. I learned a lot. Level 1 covered mostly administration of clubs, theory of coaching, risk management and insurance. That part was of great interest to me. I have a dream of starting a marathon swimmers masters team, but am afraid of litigation. Guess what? You only need 3 people to start a club. Plus, as long as one USMS member has line-of-sight of the swimmers, insurance will cover you. Even in open water! Mel told us how he bought the lifeguards at his pool USMS memberships, so that way if he has to get in the pool for instruction, he’s still covered since the lifeguards are members. Further, he repeated many times that he’s in the “swim business” and told us we can make a living being in that business. He had a small team of synchro swimmers who needed to rent the pool, but couldn’t afford the insurance. So he bought them all USMS memberships and charges them the equivalent of one lane per week. He’s done the same for a small water polo team so they could use the deep end to practice doing whatever it is water polo players do.

Level 2 covered strokes, including starts and turns, and how to correct errors. That was a great experience. I have a better than average (I think) grasp on freestyle, especially the Swim Smooth way, but those other strokes?  Would have no idea how to fix them.  Now I have some idea.  And I got some drills.  An incredible drill that I think I might have my triathletes do is the paddle drill. Instead of hooking the swim paddle to your fingers and wrist (which I don’t advise, by the way), have them hold it by the fingers, so that it covers the rest of their hand and some of their wrist. Result? If the swimmer doesn’t enter the water flat and pull back properly, the paddle may flop out of their hands. Further, if they pull correctly, they’ll really feel it on their forearm, which is excellent biofeedback.

I have to take both tests, which are take-home open book tests, so I hope I don’t screw that up. I send that in with my ASCA membership fees and a short 4-6 weeks later, I’ll be an official Level 2 ASCA Masters coach!  And the best part?  The local LMSC and my team will refund me the cost of tuition!

Coaching ain’t half bad

Okay. So I shadowed a coach. Actually two. For three lanes of triathletes. And it was great.

The pool is amazing. LCM. Really wide lanes. Could probably swim 3 or 4 abreast. Water looked great.

Swimmers were fun. I had three in my lane. Two men and a woman. One of the men had a pretty nice stroke, flat hand entry, and from what I could tell, pretty good pull under the water. Rotation not too bad, but he tended to go to unilateral after swimming a bit. His fast (first) lap for the final (4th) 500 was 1:40.5. After that his laps were in the 1:48-1:50 range.

The other male swimmer was way more fun. He swam the traditional ’60s S-pull, with textbook thumb-first entry. I tried to persuade him to move to the flat hand entry. He left on one lap pulling properly, but went back to his comfort zone pretty quickly. I told him when he was done I’d show him something on the deck that would show him how his S-pull isn’t the most efficient. Basically, I did the exercise in the Swim Smooth book (82-3), where you ask the swimmer to face you on the deck with his arm straight out. He presses his hand straight down on your palm. It is not hard, as the coach, to resist this pushing. This shows the swimmer that the straight-arm pull is inefficient.

Next, you have the swimmer bend their elbow (but still facing you head-on) and repeat. A little harder to resist, but you can resist. Finally, you have the swimmer angle the body as if they were doing the proper rotation in the pool. Much much harder to resist. More importantly, the swimmer (this swimmer specifically, too, which was nice) feels the different muscles involved. The final push really emphasizes the big muscles of the back and chest, while the first uses the shoulders almost exclusively. I could see the realization come to the eyes of this particular swimmer. I’m looking forward to seeing how his stroke develops.

The female swimmer, not too sure. She stopped a lot. She had raced recently and her muscles were still sore. I’m going to have to give her stroke another look.

All in all, it was a blast. I really enjoyed it. I will be doing this again. The other coaches were great. They introduced me to all 8 swimmers and did a main set in honor of me (4 x 500, odds build, evens race pace). They told me sets of 500 is considered long. They hope to get their swimmers up to doing longer sets, including possibly swimming a straight 2000 or even 3000 one night.

Coaching, part duh

Doing my first bit of shadowing a coach tonight. The local triathlon club has a masters swim program. I contacted them simply to find out where in the area they do their open water swims. One thing led to another, and now I’m shadowing one of the coaches.

I’m a little nervous, having never done this. But, I’ve read a lot. I’ve also swum a lot. I know, in theory, what my stroke should look like. I can identify certain faults in others (I never say anything). Whether I can correct them or not, I don’t know.

I debated even doing this. My masters club head coach was very positive about helping me become a coach, with the intent, I think, for me to coach for the team. But I don’t know if I want to do that. I know a lot of the swimmers. I think I might do better with a group whom I don’t know. Plus, I think the tri club swimmers will mostly do freestyle (I’ll find out for sure in a couple hours). The head coach of the tri club told me they need someone with open water and marathon experience. Even though I’m not a triathlete, they’re still interested in me. Go figure! (I did admit to them that I had interesting interactions with triathletes in the past; I wanted to be up front. Dear reader(s) will know what I mean.)

I am excited. This is something I’d consider for a real retirement job in the future. Wish me luck.


I always thought I’d like to give coaching a try, sometime in the future. But I certainly need training. Last year, prior to moving back to the states from Russia, my local masters team hosted Level I and II coaching education, the first steps toward Masters coaching certification. This year, the team is hosting Level III. I thought I’d have to wait yet another year for the I and II to come back around, but just noticed on Monday that another team here in town will host the class in June!

Fairfax Masters, God bless ’em, will host I and II on 22 June. My calendar looks clear. I think I’m going to do it. Not sure I’d start coaching right away, but I’d like to get some education under my belt for when my masters team does an OW workout. I’d love to help coach it. Having “Level II ASCA certified” next to my name would give me some gravitas and I can use my charisma and extrovertness (if that is a word, and WordPress is telling me it’s not) to persuade the swimmers that I know what the hell I’m talking about.

One thing I’ll have to do is join the American Swimming Coaches Association. That’s costly at $70. But I only have to join for a year. When my ASCA membership lapses, USMS will still honor my cert. That’s awesome. Plus, during the year of ASCA membership, I’ll try and take advantage of membership discounts on online courses and books.

How about my dear reader(s)? Any of you considering coaching in your future?